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Analysis of "The Colour Purple" -first three letters

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Analysis of "The Colour Purple" - first three letters "The Colour Purple" is an epistolary novel. In the first three letters, the reader is immediately thrust into the world of the protagonist and narrator of "The Colour Purple", Celie. She is a poor, uneducated, fourteen-year-old black girl living in rural Georgia. Celie starts writing letters to God because her stepfather, Alphonso, beats and rapes her. The letters are the means by which the protagonist tells her life story. Letters are a personal form of communication, and they contribute to the readers' feelings of empathy with Celie. For Celie herself, the writing of letters is not only a form of communication, especially as most of her letters are not sent, but, rather, writing is a way for her to express her feelings, quietly and safely. In fact, the importance of words, of written and spoken language, as the medium for empowerment is a central concern in the narrative. The gradual growth and development of Celie's character through her letters, which is realised by the reader as the private intimations of a diarist, is compulsive reading. We will therefore be examining the first three letters of the novel in more detail, looking at narrative voice, characters, and language. In addition, we will also be looking at an overview of the first three letters of "The Colour Purple", as well as putting the novel as a whole in historical context. ...read more.


She is asking God for help, as if he could intercede directly in her life. Her innocence is again emphasised by her candid and na�ve description of being raped by her stepfather: "he put his thing up gainst my hip" and then "he grab hold my titties." Her failure to sign her name highlights that she has no true identity, nor power, and that she is ashamed of the person she perceives herself to be. Nonetheless, Celie continues to write to God, and in doing so, confirms her existence. The second letter begins with the news of Celie's mother's death. Celie tells us that her mother would scream at her for being pregnant, and for being too slow at doing her chores as a consequence. The description of Celie's chores hints at the issue of domestic drudgery as a form of slavery. Women are imprisoned by having to care for huge families, and are confined to a life of servitude and domesticity within their own homes. Celie's mother's attitude in the second letter echoes the last lines of the first letter, where Celie tells us that her mother does show some concern about what is happening to her, but at the same time, she is happy because Alphonso is no longer demanding sex from her. All the blame is being put on Celie for what has happened, and at no time does Celie mention that anyone criticises Alphonso's actions. ...read more.


However, Celie's letters enable her to break privately the silence that is normally imposed upon her, and so are a form of rebellion. Celie's letters, though completely candid and confessional, are sometimes difficult to decipher because Celie's ability to narrate her life story is highly limited. Walker employs black American vernacular to further illustrate this and to bring the reader closer to Celie and her world. We have seen how, despite the abuses she endures, Celie has little consciousness of injustice and, tragically, shows little or no sign of anger. Walker's use of Celie's own voice, however underdeveloped, allows Walker to tell the history of black women in the rural South in a sympathetic and realistic way. Celie's letters offer a powerful first-person account of the issues surrounding racism and sexism, and her simple narrative brings the reader into her isolated world with language that reveals pain and numbness, hope and despair, humour and sadness. We considered how Celie's faith is prominent but child-like. Celie relies heavily on God as her listener and source of strength, but she sometimes blurs the distinction between God's authority and that of Alphonso. She tells her mother that God, rather than Alphonso, killed her baby, and she never makes any association between the injustice she experiences in her life and the ability of God to overturn or prevent this injustice. Celie has nothing and, at the end of the third letter, is struggling just to survive, and to find a distinct voice that can be heard. 1 ...read more.

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